WASHINGTON – From older to younger. From all-controlling to approachable. From 3-13 to a clean slate.
The Washington Redskins as a group began their transition from Mike Shanahan to Jay Gruden on Monday when they reported for the first day of the offseason workout program, and it wasn't hard to sense the different vibe under the new coach.
"He's just a younger guy, so it's a different type of eye," defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. "I played for coach (Tom) Coughlin and coach Shanahan, who are two of the older coaches in the league, so they've got a different mindset, different mentality. They're both great coaches in their own way ... but coach Gruden will bring something a little different, a different type of energy."
The 47-year-old Gruden, an NFL head coach for the first time, was hired after the 61-year-old Shanahan was dismissed following the team's fifth last-place finish in six years. Gruden retained several of Shanahan's assistants, including defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, and Cofield sensed that the staff will have greater leeway.
"You can see him interacting with his staff," Cofield said. "I feel like the whole staff, they seem a little bit maybe more comfortable, a little bit more free. Obviously it's early. The way we finished up with coach Shanahan was obviously disappointing. It was a whole different atmosphere, so bringing in kind of a new regime, I think a lot of the assistant coaches and coordinators, they feel like they've got a new lease on life, a new chance to prove themselves. And the players feel like it's a blank slate."
Because they have a new coach, the Redskins were allowed to begin their workouts two weeks earlier than most teams. The early days are restricted to activities such as weightlifting and running sprints; Gruden can't put the players through actual football drills until April 21.
"I was really impressed with how down-to-earth he is, how approachable he is," left tackle Trent Williams said. "He obviously has a great football mind. He just made all the guys feel comfortable. There's a new aura in the building. Obviously a lot of that comes with the coaching change and the new free agent pickups."
The Redskins did not allow reporters to watch the workouts, nor did they make Gruden available for comment. Cofield and Williams spoke to reporters on conference calls.
Besides the coaching change, Redskins' hopes were buoyed by the recent free agent signings of receiver DeSean Jackson and defensive lineman Jason Hatcher. Cofield conceded he had been "antsy" over the team's initial, and modest, offseason additions.
"We started off slow and steady," Cofield said, "and I think we hit some home runs here down the stretch."
Williams was one of the players who helped recruit to Jackson to the Redskins. He downplayed Jackson's reputation for a poor work ethic.
"For a guy who has had the type of impact that he has had, three Pro Bowls and just countless number of big plays, and putting his team in position to win — to me, I wouldn't question his practice habits," Williams said. "I wouldn't question him as a player."
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